Pluses and Minuses of Retail and Mail Order Pharmacies

Wondering whether to make a switch to mail order for your elder’s medications? Wishing you knew if there was really a difference? Do you like ordering things online? Or, do you prefer the personal touch?

Well, here are some basic tidbits that can help you evaluate which system works best for you and your elders. Sometimes it works best to use both!

Retail Pharmacies

Pros –

  • Local store, usually convenient to you and/or your elders
  • Fast turnaround
  • Consultations with pharmacists are easy
  • Many offer compounding (custom Rx blending/preparation)
  • You can pick up over-the-counter (OTC) items at the same time (such as aspirin, bandages, pain relievers, vitamins, etc.)
  • Can get refill reminders via text or phone
  • Established relationships with known contacts
  • Flexibility to change orders and pick up times
  • Can purchase durable medical equipment at many retail pharmacies

Cons –

  • Provide only 30-day supply, usually
  • Can be more expensive
  • Refills and orders are not usually automatic
  • Requires a personal visit to pick up medications

Mail Order Pharmacies

Pros –

  • Provide a 90-day supply, usually
  • Can usually get a 90-day Rx for the same price or less than a 30-day Rx from a retail pharmacy
  • Often are much less expensive on a pill-to-pill comparison
  • Convenient online refills/reorders
  • Can get refill reminders via email or phone

Cons –

  • Orders are processed online or via call centers
  • Often more difficult or impossible to get compounded Rx orders filled
  • Much less flexible. Once order is made, that’s it.
  • Long wait time, usually 7-10 days to ship
  • Can get shipping errors, sometimes frequently. Especially if billing and shipping addresses are different.
  • Can’t usually order OTC items
  • Consultations with pharmacists are much more difficult to get than with retail pharmacies
  • Not local

Both options have their advantages. I personally like to use the retail pharmacies for short-term or specialty prescriptions and mail order for maintenance meds. As with almost everything, it pays to do your homework. Check out pricing for your elder’s medications at both types of pharmacies and compare timing of orders as well. The right answer for your family will be at the corner where right price meets good fit.

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